Tuesday, July 16

We Are All Addicted

(Yes, the title is a reference to a Church hymn. "We Are All Enlisted" is a great Christian hymn that rallies people to the cause. I don't think my paraphrase will ever make it into a hymnal, but hopefully it rallies people to understand the things that they, and others around them, are facing.)

I'm giving up food this week.

Not completely, but almost. I found a diet last year that was completely effective for treating my bipolar, and when it's used for other conditions it has the chance of effecting a permanent cure. Just one caveat - you have to be faithful for two years. I did the diet for 6 months and saw total improvement - from up to 4 cycles of depression each month (each lasting from a day to a week) to 0. Then I got sick when my brother got leukemia, and mixed with the stress of 19.5 credits at school, two jobs, running our business, driving to the hospital and back each day, and life, I couldn't get better. So I stopped and told myself I would pick the diet back up when life became less stressful. Since CJ was declared cancer-free in January, I've felt the tinge to do it... but couldn't push myself to do it. But I'm doing it now.

That's why I'm giving up food - or more specifically, carbohydrates - because my brain is affected by them. Taking carbs out of my diet will cause my brain to slowly move over to processing ketones, which are metabolites of fatty acids. And, somehow, that fixes my bipolar.

I was realizing earlier this week that everyone in the world has probably been addicted to something. Now, when I say addicted, I mean that they indulge in an activity that they know is not beneficial in the long run, but that brings them immediate pleasure (or at least relief from pain) nonetheless... and either have no intentions of stopping or cannot.

Some of the major addictions are pornography (which definitely runs with same-gender attraction, as well as opposite-gender attraction), drugs, and alcohol, but then there are the newer-age addictions to video games, Facebook (or other stuff on the Internet), and the age-old addiction to food. I don't think it's an addiction to food, actually. I think it's an addiction to certain types of food - probably sugar and refined carbs because they have an immediate and important impact on the brain. Bring up the fact that refined sugar causes only bad things - oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and other things - on the body to a sugar addict, and suggest change, and it's like telling a porn addict to turn off the Internet to his house.

But yeah. The reality is that we're all addicted, or have been at one point. I think that's what the Lord meant, in part, when He spoke about the natural man as an enemy to God. We're entrenched in the ways of mortality and definitely have trouble getting out. And often, as much as this will grate on the nerves of everyone who hears it (because it grates on mine), when we're trying to get out of addictions, or to train our bodies and minds to do new things, we have to toss some of the good with the bad.

I went without Internet for a while so that I could have peace in my apartment and not have the temptation of pornography. It meant that every time I wanted to use the Internet I had to go to school, but since BYU had heavy filters I felt like I was safe there from myself. I know that my bishop suggests the same thing to guys and girls who go into his office and struggle with pornography. "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." I wouldn't suggest self-mutilation (I think that some of us have thought about it, but, really, there are better options), but, metaphorically, it's better to go to Heaven blind than to go to Hell able to see. I could give up YouTube and email for peace of mind.

Giving up food has been just as hard. Last time I did this, I dreamed about eating whole-wheat bread. And had to stop myself even in the dream because I didn't want to create a pattern of giving in to temptation. I can have 10 grams of carbohydrates spaced throughout the day. With a multivitamin and calcium supplement, it's down to about 8. A piece of bread can have 40. Yeah.

I don't know where I was going with this. But I think that sometimes we look at people who are struggling to change major things in their lives (with addictions) and think that they are going through something wholly different from our own. I know I have sometimes. I look at my brother, who has trouble controlling his eating, and went for 30 days without pizza, only to go back on it again. Or others that I know who have dramatically different issues that they face. But even though I'm vegan and don't eat sugar, I still have to give up food because of the cards that life has dealt me. And I already know that I'll go through withdrawal.

Changing anything has to happen with the Lord's help. As I write this, it's begun pouring rain. A sign, at least in my life, that I'm doing the right thing and that God is involved in my life. *sigh* This is going to be hard though. It means giving up eating with other people in most cases. Giving up the opportunity for someone else to cook for me, in most cases as well. And much more complicated dating. Well, at least it's happening now. My hope is that I can fix the depressive cycles before I get married someday; that way I'll have at least one less thing to worry about influencing the most important mortal relationship in eternity.

We are all addicted to who we are. To what we know. To the present and the past and the safe. But the beauty of mortality, and the Atonement of Christ, is that we can all change, no matter what we face.

(double posted at northstarlds.org/blog)


  1. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I remember sitting in Sunday School years ago, and the missionaries who teach the Addiction Recovery program got up to speak. They spoke so powerfully to this very effect- that all of us have things to overcome in this life, not just pornography or smoking like we usually tend to think of. < /br>
    < /br>
    My wife decided to give up sugar, which turned out to be quite a lifestyle adjustment. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you to give up food! I’m so impressed with your desire to prepare yourself to be a husband and father; I’m sure you will be blessed for this!

  2. This post is timely in light of the sudden death of Cory Monteith, star of television's Glee. It's suspected he died from a mixture of alcohol and heroin. He'd been in rehab and struggled with addiction from a young age. Here are some humbling facts on drug addiction: Before rehab, the body has generally accustomed itself to larger and larger doses of the addictive substance(s). The body readjusts to normality after completing rehab. When a person tries to take, after rehab, the same amount of substance as he/she did before rehab there is a much higher risk of things going terribly wrong. The body can no longer handle large doses. Alcohol, of course, further impairs judgment of when to stop if one relapses.

    If you know anyone who struggles or is recovering from addiction, be vigilant with, and of, them. Rehab is not really an "arrival" place; it's a continous journey that is never completely out of danger. If you think you've "arrived" at recovery, you've already fooled yourself, whether it's recovery from pornography, calories or substance abuse. Thinking you've "accomplished" recovery automatically sets you up for failure, an excuse to give up when life inevitably reveals you're not free from temptation or dependence on your addiction.

    "Rehab" should be thought of as a life-long journey, not an "accomplishment." Falling from an accomplishment feels much more damning than falling from a path. A path is a path, but an accomplishment is something you feel enormous pressure to live up to and not disappoint. Satan (and society) uses "accomplishments" to bring us great shame when we fail to "live up" to them.

    Church activity is the perfect metaphor for a "path" rather than an "accomplishment." You don't go to church to eventually get out of going. It doesn't buy into the illusion that perfection is possible in this life, and ideally creates a lifelong support system for recovery from life's ills. I know drug rehabilitation doesn't buy into the notion of perfect freedom either but after the meetings and the quarantine are over, what then? Religion and individuals are the best hope for helping people continue their *path*.

    Concerning America's dietary ills, sugar is not the only curse--salt and fat are the other two addictive substances. Put the three together in one recipe, such as a salted, sweet and fatty pretzel, like they sell at airports, and you have a something your body craves more than ever! Our country sells our addictions in the everyday market place. Our independent vigilance, doubling-up and smartening up about what we're doing to ourselves is needed more than ever before!


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